Villa Frère was created by British diplomat, poet, scholar and philanthropist John Hookham Frère, after the demise of his wife in 1831, as a means of comfort for his sadness.
From this garden, which enjoyed wide open views spanning from Mdina to Valletta, he could also look out onto the Msida Bastion Cemetery, where his wife reposed.
Villa Frère became a sanctuary for numerous academics, most famously Mikiel Anton Vassalli, who reportedly discussed with Frère how to establish Maltese as a written and taught language.
This romantic story and Villa Frère’s garden faded away with Frère’s death in 1846. The site fell into neglect until 40 years later, when the villa became the residence of Captain Edward Price. A notable garden enthusiast, he gave life back to the property, earning it the title of a botanic garden. The place became a prominent attraction, both to locals and foreigners.
Today, just over a third of the original area survives (including the house), yet the mystique is still there.
NGO Friends of Villa Frère has been working hard to protect what remains and to restore the gardens with life once more.
The public may visit the garden for guided tours, taking place between 9am and 5pm, with the last tour at 4pm on Sunday.
Tickets for these tours need to be purchased from Heritage Malta museums and sites or online from the Heritage Malta website before the event and are on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets will not be available at the door. Entrance is through St Luke’s Hospital.